I applauded loudly at Billy Graham’s last “crusade”, in New York in 2005. I swayed to the music at a soul and gospel church service in Antigua a few years ago. But I spent half of Bishop Michael Curry’s 14-minute sermon at the Royal Wedding staring through splayed fingers.
My overwhelming reaction was one of embarrassment. I don’t want to be out of tune with the mood of the nation. I adore Prince Harry. I’m a fan of Meghan’s. But the bishop hit the wrong note. He failed to judge his audience.
Yes, I loved his biblical references – “There is a balm in Gilead” and all the rest of it. And, yes, I was hypnotised by the call and response at Billy Graham’s rally and the gospel singing in Antigua.
But call and response only work if there’s a response. The bishop called – and the Royal Family, and the congregation, didn’t respond; apart from the bride’s mother, Doria Ragland, who did some subdued nodding at the bishop’s enthused cries.
I’m with the Royal Family on this one. I’m afraid a lifetime of attending British church services – particularly Anglican ones – has conditioned me to a solemn, low-key response to entering a church; particularly St George’s Chapel, a Royal Peculiar under the direct jurisdiction of the Queen, where Henry VIII is buried under the Quire. You could hardly find a more Anglican – and English – place in the world.
At a time when we’re encouraged to let it all hang out, to scream the deepest intimacies of our personal life across the quiet carriage on the 10.37 to Bristol, I love the low-key atmosphere of church.
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